Time Sensitive Islam Scholar Team-Up

So my Islam class at the University of Alabama is preparing for their second exam. It basically covers 7th to 13th centuries (but that’s kind of a like because we always jump around the timeline). I’d give you map coordinates but we jump around quite a bit there too.

Anyway, I almost always hold a review session before an exam. And I like to do different activities to get us thinking differently before the big show. I just had an epiphany about how I’m going to run today’s review.

At 2pm Central, I am going to give my students fifteen minutes to write their questions on the board. At 215pm I will post those questions here how you–scholars of Islam– would respond.

Now you don’t have to answer all of the questions or even completely answer a question. But I want to share something that you’d have them consider.  Maybe it’s a factoid, a theoretical provocation, a provocative historical moments, or a concise definition. Maybe you’ll answer a question with another question.

If you are up to playing, I will share your responses with the students at 3:10pm. And they can incorporate them into their review. (And I’ll incorporate them into my exam.)

So at 2:15pm or so, you’ll be able to see the questions below:

(1) What are the fish fiqh schools of thought?

The four main Sunni madhabs (is fish supposed to be fiqh?) are Hanafi, Hanbali, Shafi, and Maliki. 

Dr. Kayla Wheeler, Grand Valley State University

(2) Is ijtihad a practice that fell out of popularity, or is “independent reasoning” still valid? If so, is it’s use restricted to the ulama or can average-Joe Musoim use ijtihad in a trustworthy way?

Hi! I’ll attempt to answer the second question on ijtihad. In short: it depends on context and historical period. It is not the most authoritative legal process, yet one that is still important. Muslims today practice independent reasoning, and still debate its appropriateness. It is more acceptable in Shi’i approaches to Islam, in which both ulama and the average-Joe and Jane may draw upon it. Fun fact: many Muslim reformers of the colonial period (from India, to Egypt, and in between) used ijtihad to argue their understanding of the relationship between “Islam” and European modernity. Good luck on the exam!

Dr. Jaclyn Michael, St. Lawrence University

(3) For the Sufi, are zahir and baton opposite worlds (states of being) that one can enter or leave? Or are they academic frameworks/ways to think about spiritual existence?

Zahir and batin may be conceived as opposites that are not necessarily in opposition. The outer sense may be the first level of understanding a given teaching, or even a scriptural passage, for instance. But through progress on the Sufi path, and/or through guidance, the inner sense can present itself. This inner sense could be manifested in the locus of the heart of the Sufi or the batin could be shared within Sufi exegesis/tafsir (see #7) or through other means like poetry or dhikr practices. Understanding the inner sense does not necessitate the negation of the outer, rather it draws the Sufi further on the path to the ultimate reality—at which point both senses, along with understanding and even the self, may be negated. (Cf. Fana, tasawuf, gnosis)

Matthew Lynch, PhDc, Bard College

(4) What are the origins of Islamic law? Why are these origins significant? How is Islamic law significant to the everyday practice of Islam?

(5) What were/are some major hindrances to the expansion of early Islam?

(6) How/can you present concise definitions of Sunii Islam, Shi’i Islam, and Sharia?

Shi’a comes from Shi’atu Ali, which translates to the party of Ali, who believed that after Prophet Muhammad’s death, the next leader and all those afterwards should come from his family. Sunnis believed that the next leader should be a sahabah, but didn’t limit it to Muhammad’s blood family. Shari’a is a guide to people’s daily lives. This includes how to pray, how to treat customers, how to create ethical contracts, how to punish people for crimes, and so much more. It’s based on four source: Qur’an (the literal word of God), Sunnah (sayings and doings of Muhammad), ijma (consensus, which can include the community and scholars).

Dr. Kayla Wheeler, Grand Valley State University

(7) Is tafsir universal amongst Muslims or more in line with strictly Sunni fiqh?

(8) Is tariqa considered a primarily Sufi school of thought or does it exceed such a distinction?

(9) How did the differences between (proto–) Sunni and Shi’a differences hinder the expansion of early Islam?

If you would, put your responses in the comments below. 

NB: I’ve gone ahead and embedded tweets and comments to questions for ease of reading. But please feel free to keep the conversation going!

3 thoughts on “Time Sensitive Islam Scholar Team-Up

  1. 1. The four main Sunni madhabs (is fish supposed to be fiqh?) are Hanafi, Hanbali, Shafi, and Maliki.

    6. Shi’a comes from Shi’atu Ali, which translates to the party of Ali, who believed that after Prophet Muhammad’s death, the next leader and all those afterwards should come from his family. Sunnis believed that the next leader should be a sahabah, but didn’t limit it to Muhammad’s blood family. Shari’a is a guide to people’s daily lives. This includes how to pray, how to treat customers, how to create ethical contracts, how to punish people for crimes, and so much more. It’s based on four source: Qur’an (the literal word of God), Sunnah (sayings and doings of Muhammad), ijma (consensus, which can include the community and scholars).

    -Dr. Kayla Wheeler, Grand Valley State University

  2. Hi! I’ll attempt to answer the second question on ijtihad. In short: it depends on context and historical period. It is not the most authoritative legal process, yet one that is still important. Muslims today practice independent reasoning, and still debate its appropriateness. It is more acceptable in Shi’i approaches to Islam, in which both ulama and the average-Joe and Jane may draw upon it. Fun fact: many Muslim reformers of the colonial period (from India, to Egypt, and in between) used ijtihad to argue their understanding of the relationship between “Islam” and European modernity. Good luck on the exam!

  3. 3) Zahir and batin may be conceived as opposites that are not necessarily in opposition. The outer sense may be the first level of understanding a given teaching, or even a scriptural passage, for instance. But through progress on the Sufi path, and/or through guidance, the inner sense can present itself. This inner sense could be manifested in the locus of the heart of the Sufi or the batin could be shared within Sufi exegesis/tafsir (see #7) or through other means like poetry or dhikr practices. Understanding the inner sense does not necessitate the negation of the outer, rather it draws the Sufi further on the path to the ultimate reality—at which point both senses, along with understanding and even the self, may be negated. (Cf. Fana, tasawuf, gnosis)

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